Album Review: Muse – The Resistance

by Gordon Elgart on September 10, 2009

The cover to an album or a SciFi book?

The cover to an album or a SciFi book?

Whatever you think about the new Muse album, The Resistance, you’re right.  If you love it, you have nothing to be ashamed of.  If you hate it, you’re definitely within your rights to do so.  I don’t think this is a polarizing record.  I think it’s an affirming record.  It’s not going to change anyone’s mind on the band; rather, your opinion of Muse will be rewarded by what you’ll find.  So what will you find?

The album starts with “Uprising,” a mid-tempo stomp that has callbacks to the Doctor Who theme and “Rock and Roll, Part 2.”  It’s a pretty unassuming start to the album, and I think it’s the most boring start to a Muse album yet.  It’s followed  by “Resistance,” which has a piano line borrowed from When in Rome, some utterly cheesy background vocals stolen from some forgotten ’80s band, and a chorus that actually features the line “love is our resistance.”  This happens just in time for “Undisclosed Desires,” which is an actual love song from Muse.  The background sounds like Depeche Mode’s Violator, but the vocals are a lot flashier than you’d find on that classic record.  Love it or hate it, you’re right.

The (first) centerpiece of the album is “United States of Eurasia (+Collateral Damage).”  This is Muse’s blatant attempt at sounding like Queen.  It starts with a piano intro with a very Freddy melody, and then, before you know it, the unmistakable tone of Queen harmonies plus Brian May’s guitar kicks in.  It’s a bit spooky how close they got to the Queen sound on the moments they go for it.  But then there’s the weird orchestral stomp reminiscent of “One Night in Bangkok.”  At this point, it’s already the most ridiculous song on the album.  And when the choir starts chanting “Eur-Ay-SHA,” the circle of cheese is complete.  Finally, the Schirmer book comes out for a classical piano outro.

“Guiding Light” is next, opening with the exact same drum beat as Bon Jovi’s “Lay Your Hands on Me” but then becomes an uplifting rally cry of a song, akin to “Invincible” from the last album.  When “Unnatural Selection” kicks in with soft church organ and vocals made to sound like they are being recorded on a wax cylinder, I thought “Your Body is a Cage?”  But then the fast guitars kick in, and we finally get a Muse song worthy of being in a Hollywood chase scene.  At least for a few moments, because this is a seven-minute track with lots of stops and starts.  It’s a bit long, without being epic.

I’d like to pause for a moment to review how good this album sounds.  Every instrument sounds amazing: drums, guitars, bass, orchestra, vocals.  It’s a feat of production.  It can be hard to tell from a download, but I think some of the loudness issues from Black Holes and Revelations have gone away on this album.

Next up is “MK Ultra,” which is a pretty forgettable tune.  It almost sounds like Muse is attempting to make a dance pop single and this is what happened.  This is followed quickly by “I Belong to You (+Mon Cœur S’ouvre à ta Voix),” and if I told you that part of it is in French, and this happens right before the clarinet solo, what would you think?  Would you love it or hate it?

Finally, the album closes with a three part suite called “Exogenesis: Symphony.”  It comes as three tracks: “Overture,” “Cross Pollination,” and “Redemption.”  This is no joke.  This is an epic prog symphony of the kind you don’t hear much anymore on major labels.  It’s a breath of fresh air to some people, and the object of ridicule to others.  What side you fall on is your side; please don’t try to argue with the other side.

The Resistance is an album full of such bombastic pretentiousness, I’d like it to finally put any sort of Radiohead vs. Muse comparisons to rest.  As much as I love them, Radiohead has never tried anything this epic.  Muse is reaching toward such champions of bombastic prog as Queen, Rush and King Crimson on this record.  Even when they try to do a straight-up pop song, they can’t help but let in their proggy influences.  They also let their more modern influences in when they “borrow” from more contemporary pop sounds.  It all works together, though.

Love it or hate it, you’re right.  I love it.

Gordon Elgart

A music nerd who probably uses that term too much. I have a deep love for bombastic, quirky and dynamic music.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Joel September 10, 2009 at 10:23 am

I hope we get this in at the station. This style of music, with all the samples and homage paid, is very accessible to those with a suburban upbringing such as myself. I’d play it every week.

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DJ Kuul A September 10, 2009 at 10:24 am

But do I want the cheesy “making-of” CD. . .

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Ben September 10, 2009 at 10:31 am

I really need to get a Muse album. Should beginners start with The Resistance?

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Gordon Elgart September 10, 2009 at 10:56 am

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with starting with The Resistance and going backwards, but Absolution is probably still my favorite.

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jessica September 11, 2009 at 7:31 am

I suggest you don’t go chronologically… it gives the impression that their sound has changed when thats really not the case. Don’t get me wrong, they have absolutely evolved throughout the years and all their albums, in my opinion, are fantastic. But the older stuff is definitely heavier while the newer stuff has some electro-pop influence. I feel like if you stick to just hearing one album first, you might not get what Muse is about.

If you REALLY want to know Muse then watch their live stuff. Trust me. Buy HAARP and watch the DVD (put it on loud, with surround sound). THAT is Muse. They can seriously rock out. So even though you’d buy the Resistance or Black Holes album and think they’ve gone a little softer, the moment you’d watch their recent live footage you’d know they are some of the best out there doing rock.

Hope you enjoy!

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Gordon Elgart September 11, 2009 at 7:39 am

HAARP really is a great suggestion. That’s the DVD that added “seeing Muse in a giant British venue” to my list of fondest desires.

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DJ Kuul A September 11, 2009 at 4:46 pm

HAARP is the balls and a half.

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